18:50 GMT17 June 2021
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    The escalation of Israeli-Palestinian tensions shows no sign of abating, as the IDF and the Islamist group Hamas continue to exchange strikes, which have reportedly claimed the lives of 35 Palestinians and five Israelis so far.

    Palestinians stockpiled “stone slabs, rocks and fireworks” around the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in order to use them against Israeli security forces ahead of unrest last week, according to The Times of Israel.

    The newspaper referred to a report by the Israeli Channel 12 news outlet, which indicated that the Jewish state’s police would now “look into why it had not managed to get wind of the [Palestinians’] preparations for the violent clashes at the holy site”.

    Violence escalated after some Palestinians claimed last Friday that Israeli police tried to stop them from holding their usual Ramadan evening gatherings outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, close to the al-Aqsa Mosque. This was followed by Palestinian protesters starting to hurl stones at Israeli law enforcement officers, prompting them to resort to tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades.

    Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City Monday, May 10, 2021
    © AP Photo / Mahmoud Illean
    Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City Monday, May 10, 2021

    The clashes were preceded by an Israeli court ruling in favour of Jewish settlers who claim land in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, resulting in the eviction of several Palestinian families.

    The skirmishes were followed by the most significant Israeli-Palestinian escalation of tensions in recent years, with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and the Hamas signalling readiness to continue launching strikes at each other’s targets. Tel Aviv views Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

    Earlier on Wednesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh claimed that the Palestinians had managed to achieve a "new" balance of power in their fight against Israel after the militant group intensified its rocket attacks on central areas of the Jewish state on Tuesday evening.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, vowed that Hamas, along with the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, "will pay a high price for their actions against Israel", stressing that people in the Jewish state "are united against the despicable enemy".

    He spoke as Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz promised more IDF attacks on Hamas infrastructure in Gaza.

    “Hundreds of attacks have been carried out, towers and tunnels in the Gaza Strip have been blown up, infrastructure has been destroyed, and we still have many targets that we will attack, these are just the beginning”, Gantz said.

    The remarks came after the IDF said on Tuesday that more than 200 rockets had been launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. In response, the Israeli military hit 130 Islamic Jihad and Hamas targets, also announcing the elimination of a Hamas "terrorist" cell operating anti-tank missiles in Gaza.


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